John Carpenter’s scrapped Creature From the Black Lagoon revealed?
Back in the early 90’s master horror director John Carpenter (The Thing, Halloween, They Live) was developing a remake of 1954’s Creature from the Black Lagoon for Universal Pictures. He had make-up effects artist Rick Baker update the original Milicent Patrick design of the creature in several maquettes, one of which may have just been revealed on Carpenter’s mantle during a video interview with Variety. You can see the still above along with another full-body view of the Gill-man below!
“I don’t want to make him unrecognizable,” Carpenter told Starlog (via Den of Geek) around 1992 when he started developing the project. “I want the Creature From The Black Lagoon. However, I think he could look less rubbery. His claws don’t have to bounce the way they did [in the original film]. But essentially, he’s not really broken, so why fix him?”
“We actually did a whole bunch of designs and maquettes,” Baker told Ain’t It Cool in 2012. “My designs for the Creature were kind of like my designs for the Wolf Man; it was very much based on a love for the original material, and trying to stay true to that in a lot of ways. I think we had a creature that was updated, but you could still tell where it came from.”
Carpenter’s take on the story was inspired in part by a script written by Nigel Kneale (Quatermass series, Halloween III) for another attempt by director John Landis ten years earlier. For Carpenter’s revamp he brought in screenwriters Timothy Harris and Herschel Weingrod (Trading Places, Twins) to develop the remake into a story involving misguided creationists attempting to prove that man walked with dinosaurs 10,000 years ago, with the Gill-man serving as the would-be missing link. It also would have had undertones of Carpenter’s favorite horror author, H.P. Lovecraft.
“I would also love to work in a little Lovecraftian feel,” Carpenter said at the time. “I’m thinking of ‘The Shadow Over Innsmouth’ – fish mating with humans. There has been a legend about this man//fish, so perhaps there was a race of them, living in the Amazon. Supposedly, there are hidden pyramids in the Amazon, so I want to try to get that in there.”
Ultimately Universal wound up shifting Carpenter over to a remake of Village of the Damned, putting Creature on hold until the helmer ultimately bailed on it.
There have been many attempts to remake Creature From the Black Lagoon both before and after Carpenter’s, with directors like Tommy Lee Wallace, Joe Dante, Ivan Reitman, Gary Ross, Guillermo del Toro, Peter Jackson and Breck Eisner all attached at some point. Our former Shock Till You Drop editor-turned-producer Ryan Turek (Halloween) discovered a maquette from Eisner’s version hidden in the FX shop of Spectral Motion back in 2014.
If you’re a fan of Creature From the Black Lagoon, be sure to check out Mallory O’Meara’s new book The Lady From the Black Lagoon which chronicles the life of Milicent Patrick, Bud Westmore’s theft of her credit in creation of the Gill-man, and the ultimate industry acknowledgment to her creation of one of the most famous monsters of all-time.
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